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  • Writer's pictureJanet Myatt

Fostering Psychological Safety with Good Communication

Updated: Jan 23

Good communication skills help create an environment that supports psychological safety.


Good Communication Skills Fosters Psychological Safety

Communication is an essential aspect of human interaction, whether it be in the workplace or at home. However, the quality of communication is often overlooked, even though it significantly impacts the overall atmosphere and success of any relationship. In a world where open dialogue and understanding are paramount, creating an environment where individuals feel safe expressing themselves without fear of judgment or backlash is crucial. This article explores the fascinating connection between effective communication and psychological safety. It shows how fostering psychological safety leads to improved problem-solving, higher morale, and enhanced team performance in the workplace. It highlights the positive impact on family dynamics and overall well-being at home. And emphasizes how fostering these elements can lead to healthier and more fulfilling relationships in all aspects of life.

 

Communication and Psychological Safety at Work

Psychological safety is an important concept in the workplace that describes how safe an individual feels to take interpersonal risks. It involves establishing an environment where people feel safe to speak up, offer ideas, ask questions, and share mistakes without fear of being punished, marginalized, or embarrassed. For this to happen, good communication is critical.


Psychological safety is built on trust, respect, and collaboration. When people feel comfortable expressing their ideas, participating in conversations, and taking the initiative, higher levels of creativity, innovation, and open communication result. This leads to better problem-solving, higher morale, and improved team performance overall.  Additionally, psychological safety helps reduce stress and anxiety, leading to improved physical health, mental well-being, and overall job satisfaction.

 

Creating a psychologically safe environment doesn't mean suppressing honest opinions, avoiding conflicts, or expecting unanimous agreement. It doesn't imply that every idea receives equal praise or unconditional support. Instead, it involves cultivating a space where team members can speak candidly without fear of personal attacks, embarrassment, or punishment. This is an essential point to understand. 


A psychologically safe environment thrives when clear communication guidelines are established, and leadership sets an expectation that candor is not only expected but also respected and protected. In such an environment, individuals are encouraged to communicate openly, honestly, and impartially. It's not a free-for-all where personal attacks or derogatory behavior are tolerated. Instead, individuals are expected to speak and listen to one another in a manner that allows everyone to feel heard and respected. 


Good communicators understand that everyone looks out at the world through their own set of beliefs, desires, memories, values, and cultural programming.  These things create a distortion in the mind that makes it difficult for people to see beyond their own interpretation of things. The only way to move beyond the natural limitations of our innate perceptual bias is to be willing to consider other perspectives with active listening.  Active listening is the ability to fully attend to another person and respond in a manner that allows them to feel heard.  When this occurs, psychological safety goes up.  When individuals are unable to actively listen to one another, psychological safety goes down. 

 

The key to active listening lies in understanding that you don’t have to agree with someone to understand their point of view. You simply need to be open to hearing how they feel. Embracing a mindset of curiosity over judgment paves the way for fruitful communication. Similarly, to ensure others truly hear you, it's essential to express your viewpoint using "I" statements rather than attributing motives and intentions to others. Moreover, regulating your emotions can help you come across as more approachable, further enhancing the quality of your interactions.


Effective Communicators Know How To:

  • Actively listen to other people’s perspectives

  • Own your own perspective

  • Be aware of non-verbal behavior

  • Practice inquiry


Powerful benefits emerge when people know how to connect, listen, and support one another.  Here are what I consider to be the top 5 benefits.


  1. Increased Transparency: Good communication ensures that all team members are on the same page, reducing misunderstandings and increasing transparency. This leads to better decision-making and improved overall performance.

  2. Improved Problem-Solving: Teams with good communication skills can more effectively identify and solve problems. They can openly discuss issues, brainstorm solutions, and make decisions collaboratively.

  3. Enhanced Trust and Morale: Open and clear communication fosters trust among team members. It also boosts morale as everyone feels heard and valued. People are more likely to ask for help and even report errors when they feel respected, valued, and supported.

  4. Greater Efficiency: Good communication reduces errors and rework, leading to greater efficiency. It ensures that everyone understands their roles, responsibilities, and tasks.

  5. Better Conflict Resolution: Teams with good communication skills can handle conflicts in a more constructive manner. They can express their views openly, listen to others, and find a resolution that everyone agrees on.

 

Turning Around Low Psychological Safety

Poor communication is often the root cause of low psychological safety, leading to strained relationships, fractured teamwork, and diminished productivity. Therefore, one of the initial steps in turning around a workplace with low psychological safety is to offer communication skills classes for all employees, ranging from senior executives to front-line staff.

 

These communication skills classes should provide comprehensive training on effective communication, including active listening, assertiveness, conflict resolution, and empathy. By equipping employees with these skills, they will be more adept at expressing themselves clearly, understanding others' perspectives, resolving conflicts amicably, and engaging in meaningful conversations.

 

In addition to communication skills classes, organizations must implement measures to support and reinforce good communication practices. This can include providing resources and tools for effective communication, such as communication platforms, regular feedback sessions, and performance evaluations to assess and improve communication skills.

 

An equally essential factor in building and maintaining psychological safety is for leaders to lead by example and actively promote open and transparent communication. Leaders should emphasize the importance of psychological safety and create a culture that encourages and values diverse perspectives, constructive feedback, and open dialogue. This can be achieved through regular team meetings, one-on-one discussions, and company-wide communication initiatives such as town halls or suggestion boxes.

 

Furthermore, creating a psychologically safe workplace requires ongoing effort. It is important to continuously evaluate and measure the psychological safety of the organization through surveys, employee feedback, and observation. This feedback can then be used to identify areas for improvement and promptly address any issues that arise.

 

Good Communication is a Catalyst for Change

Many people are not fortunate to work in an organization with high psychological safety.  Does this mean there’s nothing they can do about it?  Not at all. Learning to be a good communicator empowers individuals to become a catalyst for positive change. 

Good communication in any environment offers numerous personal benefits.

 

Increased Influence: When you can effectively communicate your thoughts, ideas, and opinions, you are more likely to influence others and have your voice heard. This can lead to increased opportunities for career advancement, greater visibility within the organization, and the ability to shape decisions and outcomes.


Strengthened Relationships: Good communication fosters strong relationships with colleagues, superiors, and subordinates. It helps build trust, understanding, and respect, facilitating collaboration and cooperation. Strong relationships can lead to a more enjoyable work environment, better teamwork, and increased support and mentorship opportunities.


Enhanced Conflict Resolution: Effective communication skills enable you to navigate conflicts and disagreements more successfully. You can express your concerns assertively and constructively, actively listen to others' perspectives, and find common ground to resolve issues amicably. This helps prevent conflicts from escalating, reduces stress, and maintains positive relationships.


Improved Clarity and Understanding: Good communicators can convey their ideas and information clearly, minimizing misunderstandings and confusion. This leads to better alignment, shared goals, and increased productivity. It also enables you to understand others' messages accurately, ensuring you have the information needed to perform your tasks effectively.


Increased Emotional Intelligence: Effective communication requires a high level of emotional intelligence. By being aware of your own emotions and empathizing with others, you can communicate with sensitivity and compassion. This not only enhances your interpersonal relationships but also helps you navigate difficult conversations, provide support to colleagues in need, and foster a more positive and inclusive work environment.


Personal Growth and Development: Learning to be open to other perspectives and insights gives you the opportunity to see the world and yourself in new ways that can help you stretch beyond current biases and limitations. Through feedback and self-reflection, you can identify areas for improvement and continue to develop your ability to communicate effectively with others. As you become a more confident and effective communicator, you grow personally and invite increased professional success.


Reduced Stress and Anxiety: Clear and open communication reduces uncertainty and ambiguity, which can alleviate stress and anxiety in the workplace. Effectively expressing your thoughts and concerns can prevent misunderstandings, clarify expectations, and proactively address issues. This promotes a more positive and supportive work environment, enhancing overall well-being.

 

In conclusion, good communication is crucial for psychological safety in the workplace. It is the foundation for organizations with high psychological safety and the first step in improving workplaces with low psychological safety. Effective and open communication allows employees to develop the skills they need to succeed, enhances team performance, increases job satisfaction, and creates a positive and productive work environment. However, leaders must also demonstrate and promote good communication practices throughout the organization to maintain psychological safety. This requires ongoing assessment and prioritization of psychological safety to create an inclusive and thriving work environment.

 

Communication and Psychological Safety at Home

Psychological safety is not limited to the workplace; it is equally important to build it at home. Creating a psychologically safe environment at home enables family members to express themselves, share their thoughts and emotions, and engage in open and honest communication without fear of judgment or negative repercussions.

 

Here are some ways to build psychological safety at home:

 

Active Listening: Practice active listening when family members are speaking. Give them your full attention, maintain eye contact, and refrain from interrupting or rushing to provide solutions. Show empathy and understanding by validating their feelings and emotions.


Open Communication: Encourage open and transparent communication within the family. Create an environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. Set aside regular family meetings or discussions to address issues or conflicts and actively listen to each other's perspectives.


Respectful Feedback: Provide constructive feedback in a respectful and non-judgmental manner. Focus on the behavior or issue at hand rather than attacking the individual. Use "I" statements to express your feelings and encourage others to do the same. This helps to avoid blame and defensiveness, fostering a safe space for communication.


Setting Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries within the home and respect each other's boundaries. This includes respecting personal space, privacy, and individual preferences. When family members feel their boundaries are respected, they are more likely to feel safe and secure within the home.


Conflict Resolution: Teach and practice healthy conflict resolution skills within the family. Encourage family members to address conflicts directly and openly without resorting to aggression or avoidance. Establish ground rules for conflict resolution, such as active listening, mutual respect, and finding win-win solutions.


Emotional Support: Create an environment where family members feel safe to express their emotions and seek emotional support when needed. Encourage empathy and understanding and provide reassurance that it is okay to experience a range of emotions. Avoid dismissing or belittling someone's feelings and offer support and understanding instead.


Celebrate Differences: Embrace and celebrate the diversity within the family. Encourage individuality, different perspectives, and unique strengths. Create a sense of inclusion and acceptance, valuing each family member's contributions.

 

Building psychological safety at home promotes stronger family bonds, trust, and overall well-being. It allows for open and meaningful communication, conflict resolution, and personal growth within the family unit.

 

In conclusion, good communication and psychological safety are crucial in the workplace and at home. In the workplace, they contribute to a positive work environment, enhanced collaboration, and increased productivity. Meanwhile, in the home, they foster more intimate family connections, open and honest communication, and a supportive environment. By prioritizing and nurturing good communication and psychological safety, we can create thriving workspaces and harmonious homes that cultivate growth, trust, and well-being for all involved.


Start creating a more supportive environment at work and at home by signing up for the Mastering Communication: From Basics to Brilliance class today!"

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